CNN just did a blockbuster report on an issue we’ve been reporting on for months: Russia’s nearly two-dozen-city strong network of ultra-nationalist vigilante groups who kidnap young gay teens and torture them on film, then publish them on Russian social media network VK.com, that oddly lets them publish videos and photos of their crimes.
This video, below, is a must-see, and a must-share.
CNN’s broadcast comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin warning gays attending the Olympics to “leave kids alone,” or face arrest under Russia’s draconian new anti-gay “propaganda” law.
Ironically, the biggest threat to Russian children seems to be Vladimir Putin himself. Put has let children-kidnapping vigilantes organize across Russia with impunity.
The series of short clips, making the rounds on the mobile phone application WhatsApp show the victim, who seems to be an ethnic Uzbek, being bullied into confessing that he is gay.
He is asked to identify himself and is stripped of his clothes, which are later burned. He is then handcuffed, beaten, insulted, and threatened with a gun. Ultimately, he is forced to sodomize himself by sitting on a bottle, which is then pushed with a bat.
The man, visibly terrified, weeps throughout much of the ordeal.
The Russian authorities have been generally disinterested in the crimes – the victims are, after all, gay – and to date have prosecuted no one, even though the perpetrators’ faces, and often home towns, are clearly visible in the videos.
The ringleader of the vigilantes is ultra-nationalist Maxim Martsinkevich, who was permitted for operate and organize freely until western media, most social media and blogs, highlighted his ongoing crimes. He has reportedly now left the country in order to avoid prosecution. Had the Russians bothered going after his six or 12 months ago, they’d have caught him. We reported on this for the first time in July of 2013. And by then, it had been going on for months, if not longer. The Russians had all year to go after, and didn’t until he finally, allegedly, skipped the country in November of 2013.
Not to mention, look at the videos – he had lots of accomplices. Where are their arrest warrants. And why did it take the Russians at least six months, if not a year or more, to do something about this man? I’ll tell you why – because that’s when people outside of Russia, in the civilized developed world found out about it, and the Russian government got embarrassed.
Here’s Martsinkevich’s profile on VK.com, with his 134,000 followers. You’ll note that it’s still live, and that he posted just an hour ago. I’m surprised we haven’t heard of any lawsuits, or enforcement actions by the Russian government, against this Web site.
And here’s a photo Martsinkevich posted on his VK.com account, showing him terrorizing one of the victims that CNN also highlighted. Imagine a US or European social media site permitting the promotion of this kind of criminal activity on their sites. There are a ton more on his profile.
VK.com is controlled by this man, Pavel Durov. Though its ownership is complicated, via Wikipedia:
V Kontakte was incorporated on 19 January 2007 as a Russian limited liability company. Founder and CEO Pavel Durov owns 20% of shares (although he has majority voting power through proxy votes), and a trio of Russian investors, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili, Mikhael Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev (not from Africa-Israel Investments), own 60%, 10% and 10% respectively. The company is now completely owned by offshore firm Doraview Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands. The full current ownership is not in the public domain, although Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies) has publicly acknowledged a stake of 39.99%. Subsequently, the full ownership structure was published.The company is controlled by Pavel Durov, founder and CEO. On 29 May 2012 Mail.ru Group announced that it has decided to yield control of the company to Durov by offering him the voting rights on its shares. Combined with Durov’s personal 12% stake, this gives him 52% of the votes.
VK canceled their IPO plans, citing unsatisfactory market conditions after Facebook’s IPO blunder.
Current shareholder structure as of 2011 is: 12% is owned by Vkontakte founder’s Pavel Durov, 8% by his partner Lev Leviev, and 40% by Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and members of his family. Mail.ru Group owns a 39,99% stake, having acquired 7.44% from Pavel Durov and other shareholders last month for $111.7 million.
Perhaps Queer Nation will pay Mr. Durov a visit one of these days and ask him why he thinks letting anti-gay and anti-trans kidnappers use his site to build their fan base, organize, and publicize their crimes is somehow acceptable in any modern social media company. There are various reports about where Durov lives, including St. Petersburg, Russia and the United States.
The vigilantes call their kidnappings “safaris.” The number of Martsinkevich’s affiliates – he calls his group Occupy Pedophilia, even though most of his victims appear to be teenage gay boys. There are nearly two dozen branches in cities like Moscow, Kiev, Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and Rostov, among others.
Below are some of the images from CNN’s broadcast – you can find the broadcast below. Beneath each image I give a description of what’s taking place.
And below is CNN’s video: